STRASBURG – After 11 years of owning the Hotel Strasburg, owner Sam Saliba is planning to sell the property – if he can find the right owner.
"I'm trying to find the right person," Saliba said, noting that if he can't, there's no guarantee he will sell it.
One of the reasons for the sale is because of his special needs son, Saliba said during a recent phone interview. Another is the pandemic and its impact on the tourism industry.
With his focus on his son, Saliba said he hasn't been able to put his "heart and soul" into running the operation, which he said is needed during the pandemic. Without that effort, the safety of people and 100% satisfaction of customers can be jeopardized, he said.
Having closed down in March due to the pandemic, Saliba thought this would be a good time to sell.
Saliba bought the Hotel Strasburg after being in the U.S. Air Force. He had been serving overseas in Europe and upon his return was planning to meet up with a friend. Within days of landing stateside though, Saliba said the friend had died after his heart had irregularities from medication he was taking as a treatment for cancer. It was then that Saliba said he traveled to the Shenandoah Valley to take some time for himself, and he said he realized just how short life can be. He decided then that he wanted to settle down. He discovered the Hotel Strasburg and bought it in December 2009.
During the phone interview, Saliba recalled the various interactions he has had with people throughout the years he has owned the hotel. That includes Gloria Stickley, president of the Strasburg Museum, who kept the key to the museum at the hotel because museum volunteers would change frequently. It also includes Rick Burnette and Bill Foster, who provided musical entertainment at the hotel, and attorney Douglas Arthur, of Douglas C. Arthur Attorney at Law, who was involved with the process when Saliba bought the hotel. Arthur also played music at the hotel with his assistant, Rhonda Sager.
Strasburg Mayor Brandy Boies, who worked at the hotel from the mid-90s to the early 2000s as a table busser, waitress and bartender under the owner prior to Saliba, recalled the unique feel the hotel had that attracted a diverse group of people.
People would book their holiday meals there well in advance, Boies said. "Pre-prom" and post-Belle Grove/Cedar Creek Civil War reenactment gatherings would be held there as well as executives from corporations and businesses in Winchester, Boies said.
"It was kind of like this little hub of diversity in Strasburg," she added.
Boies also recalled the "Chicken Shenandoah," a chicken pot pie and Caesar salad among the several menu items that came out of the hotel's kitchen. Burgers could be purchased at the hotel's pub.
The hotel was built as a private maternity hospital in 1902 and run by Dr. Mackall R. Bruin. A name plaque for Bruin is in the hotel.
In 1915, Bruin went West to make a name for his practice and his wife stayed behind, converting the hospital to a hotel to make a living, Saliba said. In 1987, Leo Bernstein, one of the previous owners of the hotel, restored the hotel to its original Victorian style.
A sealed bid sale for the hotel and its adjacent buildings is being directed by James Connelly, principal at Summit Commercial Real Estate LLC.
"These are one-of-a-kind-jewels or gems," Connelly said of the historic buildings. He compared it to the Red Fox Inn and Tavern in Middleburg, and the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina.
The hotel's main building has 21 rooms, two of which are executive suites for a "business-oriented visitor," Saliba said. They have a desk and are larger rooms. All of the rooms in the hotel have their own bathrooms.
There are also seven jacuzzi suites, which are larger rooms, and a regular-sized room in the two additional buildings on the property: the Taylor House and Chandler House, Saliba said. The two buildings are named after the families who lived there.
The hotel also has a dining area and pub that can hold up to 124 people, a banquet room for about 80 people and a meeting room for about 18 people. The pub, known as The Depot Lounge, has been known for its chicken wing night on Tuesdays and music night on Thursdays, Connelly said.
There are five apartment units in a carriage house on the property that may be included in the sale and will stay as apartments if they are, Saliba said. The entire complex sits on about 1.1 acres of land.
The place is ideal for weddings, business gatherings, retreats and other events, Saliba said. A potential rails-to-trail project in town, as well as the several outdoor recreational opportunities throughout the Shenandoah Valley, are draws for the hotel, Connelly said.
Because the rooms are their own units with bathrooms, the hotel is able to meet the needs to address the pandemic, Saliba said. Options for holding functions outdoors, under tents, are also available, Connelly said.
There is no selling price set, said Saliba, who purchased the hotel for about $1.1 million in 2009.
The whole campus' buildings and grounds are assessed at about $1.8 million, Connelly said. The hotel's main building roof was redone a few years ago after a storm, and everything else has been maintained as needed, he added.
Several incentives for the buyer are available, including funding assistance and tax abatements at the local, county and state levels.
Bids will be accepted through mid-January but may be extended in the event an acceptable offer to the owner isn't received, Connelly said.
"Strasburg will always be my second home," said Saliba, a Northern Virginia resident. "I feel welcomed, and miss it when I'm not there."